by Michael Plontz
While everyone else is enjoying the hustle and bustle and the joy of the holiday season, there are many caregivers out there who just want the whole thing over with. Caregiving creates a level of stress unmatched by most endeavors. Add to that the extra stress of family gatherings, gift buying, cooking, and other obligations and it is almost unbearable. How can caregivers better cope with this stress on top of stress?
The following tips may help you weather the holidays much better:
Start your own tradition. Often we feel bound by past holiday traditions, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of having 20 family members and guests in your home, and cooking for all of them, try a different approach. Suggest that someone else host Passover or Easter dinner. Or, if your home is the only appropriate one, enlist the help of friends and relatives for everything from cleaning to preparing food. A potluck is a great idea—you can even assign specific dishes to ensure that a complete dinner is provided.
There are great ways to shop non-traditionally as well. The Internet is a fantastic way to shop for food and gifts without leaving home. Another way to shop from home is using catalogs (many people feel uncomfortable about putting credit card numbers out in cyberspace). If you would rather go out, use the catalogs to make lists of specific gifts for each person. That way you know exactly where to go and exactly what to get.
Make sure you leave enough time to enjoy the holidays. It shouldn’t be all about the hustle and bustle.
The motto “Everything in moderation” should be your guide through the holidays. There are many temptations abundant throughout the season—alcohol, sweets and rich food. Go ahead. Have some. Just don’t over-indulge. It may make you sick or uncomfortable even through the following day.
Be prepared for unexpected circumstances. Something may come up, and probably will, so what can you do? If you can, change the situation. If you can’t, accept it and move on. You cannot control life no matter how planned out you believe you have things. Laugh a lot…
Try to keep up on your regular exercise routine, or start one, during the holidays. Walking five times a week is a great way to stay in shape. There is also something about pounding the pavement that helps release frustrations and clears your head. If your looking out your window and the snow is flurrying and drifting, find an alternative. Many health clubs have indoor tracks. If that doesn’t appeal to you, check with the nearest shopping mall. Some open early just for walkers.
Ideally caregivers should have a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly break.
Daily-Half an hour of yoga, meditation, needlepoint, reading, etc.
Weekly-A couple of hours spent away from the house at the mall, library, coffeehouse, etc.
Monthly-An evening out with your friends, a play, a concert, etc.
Yearly-A well-planned (and well-deserved) vacation.
Planning ahead for these breaks is imperative. You may need to arrange for respite care for your loved one.
It can be done. You can care for your loved one, attend to your daily activities, and enjoy the holidays. We all do what we can, and nobody should expect more than that from us. Especially us. Happy Holidays.